Taxes

Poor Americans More Likely to Be Audited Than Middle Class

Those who receive government handouts also invite more government scrutiny.

Political Editors · Apr. 15, 2019

Today is the deadline for filing taxes — the day many Americans would prefer to skip. In light of that, ProPublica is out with an interesting story detailing research on which regions in the U.S. are most likely for citizens to be audited by the IRS. And the results of that study may prove surprising to many. For example, the U.S. county in which residents face the highest chance of being audited is Humphreys County, Mississippi — a rural, low-income part of the state in the Mississippi Delta. In fact, the areas of the nation with the highest percentage of tax audits largely spans from the Deep South on through Texas to southern California.

The study found that the regions with the highest audit numbers also corresponded with the regions with lower overall income levels. In other words, poorer regions have higher auditing percentages. This may seem counterintuitive, until considering that lower-income Americans are more likely to claim the earned income tax credit (EITC), a program ostensibly aimed to boost low-income workers out of poverty.

As with any system that offers financial assistance, there will be a higher percentage of those seeking to cheat the system for their own gain. Consequently, the IRS audits EITC recipients at a higher rate than all but the richest Americans. Those with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 are least likely to face an audit. The more one receives from the government, the greater the chance the government will look into one’s finances. Given human nature, that’s not without reason.

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